The Texas Tech Red Raiders defeated the Utah State Aggies, 65-53, to win an NCAA Tournament first-round game for the third straight tournament under head coach Chris Beard.
The Red Raiders (18-10) will face Arkansas in the second round on Sunday.
The Red Raiders, who started slowly from the field, ended up with four players in double figures, led by guard Mac McClung, who ended up scoring 16 points, including draining three 3-pointers. Kyler Edwards scored 12 points and had six rebounds, along with a team-high four assists. Kevin McCullar had 10 points along with a team-high seven rebounds. Terence Shannon Jr. scored 10 points and had three assists.
Marcus Santos-Silva had six points and six rebounds, while Micah Peavy had seven points off the bench.
The Red Raiders were shooting under 30 percent from the floor at the start of the second half, but they picked up their shooting touch to finish the game at 42 percent.
The Red Raiders forced 22 turnovers out of the Aggies, and Beard said that was an emphasis in game preparation and execution.
“It was a game plan based on our respect for Utah State,” Beard said. “This is a disciplined team. This team is not going to beat themselves. We really felt like we had to be the most aggressive team. We were willing to take some chances and leave ourselves open to some punches in doing that, and we did that today, gave up some easy baskets, a couple threes, but I thought obviously the ability to turn them over, create some offense from our defense really was probably the difference in the game.”
The Aggies were led by Justin Bean, who scored 13 points and grabbed eight rebounds.
Neemias Queta, the Aggies’ 7-footer, had a solid game, scoring 11 points, grabbing 13 rebounds, dishing out six assists and blocking seven shots. But he did not have the impact that the Aggies were hoping, in part because the Red Raiders double-teamed him at practically every turn and the Aggies didn’t make the Red Raiders pay for those double-teams, as they shot just 4-of-19 from the 3-point line.
Marco Anthony, a member of the 2019 Virginia national championship team which defeated Texas Tech, also had 11 points for the Aggies.
Beard spoke to the media after the game. Here are some of his better quotes:
On ESPN Bracketology guru Joe Lunardi not taking the Red Raiders in the first round: And then Mr. Lunardi, I just want to thank him again for — he never picks us, and our guys kind of feed on that. I tell the guys to stay off of social media, but it’s almost impossible this time of year, but a couple guys brought that to our attention that he once again didn’t pick us, so not sure if he got a speeding ticket in Lubbock back in the day or something, but last time we were in this tournament we did pretty well and we intend to make a run this year, too.
On what triggered the Red Raiders’ 16-2 run to start the second half: I thought specific to our successful run at the start of the second half, our defense remained consistent. The first half we guarded — really what helped us on that run is our offense opened up. We got a little bit more aggressive on our break, a little bit more aggressive with our shot selection, and just told the guys to play fearless, to play with courage, to let it rip. That’s our deal this NCAA Tournament. We try to give our guys a theme each year when we’re here. Let it rip. We’ve earned the right to be here.
On what he told his players after shooting less than 30 percent from the floor in the first half: I told the guys, man, just take a deep breath here, think about all the time you spent in the gym, the summer, the spring, early mornings, late nights, 300 club, extra shots. We put in the work, man. We deserve the right. We earned the right to make some shots. Let’s don’t go panic here at halftime and change our offense, let’s just take a deep breath and be the best version of ourselves. Now, we did get a little more aggressive offensively, turn up the heat a little bit because their half-court defense is so well. I thought our best chance was to get some shots in transition.
You can find Matthew Postins on Twitter @PostinsPostcard.
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